"Peter not Pope" Post (1)
Peter not Pope (from a messageboard)

Matt, greetings in Christ from sunny Kansas,

I took some extra time in doing this as I am interested in being as fair as one can be about this passage:

This is of course, the main text that you as a Roman Catholic use to attempt to get traditions allowed and used as authority..

So it needs some extra care..

Matt 16:16 (KJS) And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. {Peter: this name signifies a rock}

What we are going to continue to do here is to introduce once again the Strong's numbering system in dealing with the texts--so we can see if the words are identical or if they are not identical in nature.

Matt 16:16 (KJS) And <1161> Simon <4613> Peter <4074> answered <611> (5679) and said <2036> (5627), Thou <4771> art <1488> (5748) the Christ <5547>, the Son <5207> of the living <2198> (5723) God <2316>. 17 And <2532> Jesus <2424> answered <611> (5679) and said <2036> (5627) unto him <846>, Blessed <3107> art thou <1488> (5748), Simon <4613> Barjona <920>: for <3754> flesh <4561> and <2532> blood <129> hath <601> <0> not <3756> revealed <601> (5656) [it] unto thee <4671>, but <235> my <3450> Father <3962> which <3588> is in <1722> heaven <3772>. 18 And <1161> I say <3004> (5719) also <2504> unto thee <4671>, That <3754> thou <4771> art <1488> (5748) Peter <4074>, and <2532> upon <1909> this <5026> rock <4073> I will build <3618> (5692) my <3450> church <1577>; and <2532> the gates <4439> of hell <86> shall <2729> <0> not <3756> prevail against <2729> (5692) it <846>. {Peter: this name signifies a rock}

We will refer back to these numbers as time goes on but for now please note art <1488> (5748) Peter <4074> and <2532> upon <1909> this <5026> rock <4073>

They are not the same words.

This passage is one of the storm-centres of New Testament interpreta- tion. It has always been difficult to approach it calmly and without prejudice, for it is the Roman Catholic foundation of the position of the Pope and of the Church. It is taken by the Roman Catholic Church to mean that to Peter were given the keys which admit or exclude a man from heaven, and that to Peter was given the power to absolve or not to absolve a man from his sins. It is further argued by the Roman Catholic Church that Peter, with these tremendous rights, became the bishop of Rome; and that this power descended to all the bishops of Rome; and that it exists today in the Pope, who is the head of the Church and the Bishop of Rome.

It is easy to see how impossible any such doctrine is for a Protestant believer; and it is also easy to see how Protestant and Roman Catholic alike may approach this passage, not with the single-hearted desire to discover its meaning, but with the determination to yield nothing of his own position, and, if possible, to destroy the position of the other.

Let us then try to find its true meaning. That is my first and primary goal here--to seek out the true meaning.

There is a play on words. In Greek Peter is Petros (4074-GSN) and a rock is petra (4073-GSN).

and <2532> upon <1909> this <5026> rock <4073>

BDB/Thayers # 4074 4074 Petros {pet'-ros} AV - Peter 161, stone 1; 162 Peter = "a rock or a stone" 1) one of the twelve disciples of Jesus

and <2532> upon <1909> this <5026> rock <4073>

BDB/Thayers # 4074 4074 Petros {pet'-ros} apparently a primary word; TDNT - 6:100,835; n pr m AV - Peter 161, stone 1; 162 Peter = "a rock or a stone" 1) one of the twelve disciples of Jesus

BDB/Thayers # 4073 4073 petra {pet'-ra} from the same as 4074; TDNT - 6:95,834; n f AV - rock 16; 16 1) a rock, cliff or ledge 1a) a projecting rock, crag, rocky ground 1b) a rock, a large stone 1c) metaph. a man like a rock, by reason of his firmness and strength of soul

See-this enables us to quickly see as individuals--that the words are not the same..we don't have to depend on someone to tell us one way or the other..

Peter's Aramaic name was Kephas (3710-HSN), and that also is the Aramaic for a rock. In either language there is here a play upon words. Immediately Peter had made his great discovery and confession, Jesus said to him: "You are petros (4074-GSN), and on this petra (4073-GSN) I will build my Church."

Whatever else this is, it is a word of tremendous praise. It is a metaphor which is by no means strange or unusual to Jewish thought.

The Rabbis applied the word rock to Abraham. They had a saying: "When the Holy One saw Abraham who was going to arise, he said, `Lo, I have discovered a rock (petra, 4073-GSN) to found the world upon.' Therefore he called Abraham rock (tsuwr, 6697-HSN), as it is said: `Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn.'" Abraham was the rock on which the nation and the purpose of God were founded.

Even more the word rock (tsuwr, 6697-HSN) is again and again applied to God himself. "He is the Rock; his work is perfect" (Deut 32:4). "For their rock is not as our Rock" (Deut 32:31). "There is no rock like our God" (1Sam 2:2). "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer" (2Sam 22:2). The same phrase occurs in Ps 18:2. "Who is a rock, except our God?" (Ps 18:31).

The same phrase is in 2Sam 22:32. One thing is clear. To call anyone a rock was the greatest of compliments; and no Jew who knew his Old Testament could ever use the phrase without his thoughts turning to God, who alone was the true rock of his defence and salvation. What then did Jesus mean when in this passage he used the word rock? To that question at least four answers have been given.

i) Augustine took the rock to mean Jesus himself. It is as if Jesus said: "You are Peter; and on myself as rock I will found my Church; and the day will come when, as the reward of your faith, you will be great in the Church."

ii) The second explanation is that the rock is the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. To Peter that great truth had been divinely revealed. The fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is indeed the foundation stone of the Church's faith and belief, but it hardly seems to bring out the play on words which is here.

iii) The third explanation is that the rock is Peter's faith. On the faith of Peter the Church is founded. That faith was the spark which was to kindle the faith of the world-wide Church. It was the initial impetus which was one day to bring the universal Church into being.

iv) The last interpretation is still the best. It is that Peter himself is the rock, but in a special sense. He is not the rock on which the Church is founded; that rock is God. He is the first stone of the whole Church. Peter was the first man on earth to discover who Jesus was; he was the first man to make the leap of faith and see in him the Son of the living God. In other words, Peter was the first member of the Church, and, in that sense, the whole Church is built on him. It is as if Jesus said to Peter: "Peter, you are the first man to grasp who I am; you are therefore the first stone, the foundation stone, the very beginning of the Church which I am founding." And in ages to come, everyone who makes the same discovery as Peter is another stone added into the edifice of the Church of Christ.

Two things help to make this clear.

i) Often the Bible uses pictures for the sake of one definite point. The details of the picture are not to be stressed; it is one point which is being made. In connection with the Church the New Testament repeatedly uses the picture of building, but it uses that picture for many purposes and from many points of view.

Here Peter is the foundation, in the sense that he is the one person on whom the whole Church is built, for he was the first man to discover who Jesus was.

In Eph 2:20 the prophets and the apostles are said to be the foundation of the Church. It is on their work and on their witness and on their fidelity that the Church on earth, humanly speaking, depends. In the same passage, Jesus Christ is the chief corner-stone; he is the force who holds the Church together. Without him the whole edifice would disintegrate and collapse.

In 1Pet 2:4-8 all Christians are living stones who are to be built into the fabric of the Church.

In 1Cor 3:11 Jesus is the only foundation, and no man can lay any other. It is clear to see that the New Testament writers took the picture of building and used it in many ways. But at the back of it all is always the idea that Jesus Christ is the real foundation of the Church, and the only power who holds the Church together. When Jesus said to Peter that on him he would found his Church, he did not mean that the Church depended on Peter, as it depended on himself and on God the Rock. He did mean that the Church began with Peter; in that sense Peter is the foundation of the Church; and that is an honour that no man can take from him.

ii) The second point is that the very word Church (ekklesia, 1577-GSN) in this passage conveys something of a wrong impression. We are apt to think of the Church as an institution and an organization with buildings and offices, and services and meetings, and organizations and all kinds of activities.

The word that Jesus almost certainly used was qahal (6951-HSN), which is the word the Old Testament uses for the congregation of Israel, the gathering of the people of the Lord.

What Jesus said to Peter was: "Peter, you are the beginning of the new Israel, the new people of the Lord, the new fellowship of those who believe in my name." Peter was the first of the fellowship of believers in Christ. It was not a Church in the human sense, still less a Church in a denominational sense, that began with Peter. What began with Peter was the fellowship of all believers in Jesus Christ, not identified with any Church and not limited to any Church, but embracing all who love the Lord.

So then we may say that the first part of this controversial passage means that Peter is the foundation stone of the Church in the sense that he was the first of that great fellowship who joyfully declare their own discovery that Jesus Christ is Lord; but that, in the ultimate sense, it is God himself who is the rock on which the Church is built.

Jesus goes on to say that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against his Church. What does that mean? The idea of gates prevailing is not by any means a natural or an easily understood picture. Again there is more than one explanation.

i) It may be that the picture is the picture of a fortress. This suggestion may find support in the fact that on the top of the mountain overlooking Caesarea Philippi there stand today the ruins of a great castle which may well have stood there in all its glory in the time of Jesus. It may be that Jesus is thinking of his Church as a fortress, and the forces of evil as an opposing fortress; and is saying that the embattled might of evil will never prevail against the Church.

ii) In the ancient east the Gate was always the place, especially in the little towns and villages, where the elders and the rulers met and dispensed counsel and justice. For instance, the law is laid down that, if a man has a rebellious and disobedient son, he must bring him "to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives" (Deut 21:19), and there judgment will be given and justice done.

In Deut 25:7 the man with a certain problem is told to "go up to the gate to the elders." The gate was the scene of simple justice where the elders met. So the gate may have come to mean the place of government. For long, for instance, the government of Turkey was called the Sublime Porte (porte being the French for gate). So then the phrase would mean: The powers, the government of Hades will never prevail against the Church.

iii) There is a third possibility. Suppose we go back to the idea that the rock on which the Church is founded is the conviction that Jesus is none other than the Son of the living God. Now Hades was not the place of punishment, but the place where, in primitive Jewish belief, all the dead went. Obviously, the function of gates is to keep things in, to confine them, shut them up, control them. There was one person whom the gates of Hades could not shut in; and that was Jesus Christ. He burst the bonds of death. As the writer of Acts has it, "It was not possible for him to be held by death.... Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption" (Ac 2:24,27).

So then this may be a triumphant reference to nothing less than the coming Resurrection. Jesus may be saying: "You have discovered that I am the Son of the living God. The time will soon come when I will be crucified, and the gates of Hades will close behind me. But they are powerless to shut me in. The gates of Hades have no power against me the Son of the living God."

However we take it, this phrase triumphantly expresses the indestructibility of Christ and his Church.

It has nothing to do with Peter becoming a pope and passing special authority to other men who then in turn just pass it on to one man at at time..

We now come to two phrases in which Jesus describes certain privileges which were given to and certain duties which were laid on Peter.

i) He says that he will give to Peter the keys of the Kingdom. This is an obviously difficult phrase; and we will do well to begin by setting down the things about it of which we can be sure.

(a) The phrase always signified some kind of very special power. For instance, the Rabbis had a saying: "The keys of birth, of the rain, and of the resurrection of the dead belong to God."

That is to say, only God has the power to create life, to send the rain, and to raise the dead to life again. The phrase always indicates a special power.

(b) In the New Testament this phrase is regularly attached to Jesus. It is in his hands, and no one else's, that the keys are.

In Rev 1:18 the risen Christ says: "I am the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades." Again in Rev 3:7 the Risen Christ is described as, "The holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens." This phrase must be interpreted as indicating a certain divine right, and whatever the promise made to Peter, it cannot be taken as annulling, or infringing, a right which belongs alone to God and to the Son of God.

(c) All these New Testament pictures and usages go back to a picture in Isaiah (Isa 22:22). Isaiah describes Eliakim, who will have the key of the house of David on his shoulder, and who alone will open and shut. Now the duty of Eliakim was to be the faithful steward of the house. It is the steward who carries the keys of the house, who in the morning opens the door, and in the evening shuts it, and through whom visitors gain access to the royal presence.

So then what Jesus is saying to Peter is that in the days to come, he will be the steward of the Kingdom. And in the case of Peter the whole idea is that of opening, not shutting, the door of the Kingdom.

That came abundantly true. At Pentecost, Peter opened the door to three thousand souls (Ac 2:41). He opened the door to the Gentile centurion Cornelius, so that it was swinging on its hinges to admit the great Gentile world (Ac 10 ).

Ac 15 tells how the Council of Jerusalem opened wide the door for the Gentiles, and how it was Peter's witness which made that possible Ac 15:14; Simeon is Peter). The promise that Peter would have the keys to the Kingdom was the promise that Peter would be the means of opening the door to God for thousands upon thousands of people in the days to come.

But it is not only Peter who has the keys of the Kingdom; every Christian has; for it is open to every one of us to open the door of the Kingdom to some other and so to enter into the great promise of Christ.

Jesus further promised Peter that what he bound would remain bound, and what he loosed would remain loosed.

To loose and to bind were very common Jewish phrases. They were used especially of the decisions of the great teachers and the great Rabbis. Their regular sense, which any Jew would recognize was to allow and to forbid. To bind something was to declare it forbidden; to loose was to declare it allowed. These were the regular phrases for taking decisions in regard to the law. That is in fact the only thing these phrases in such a context would mean.

So what Jesus is saying to Peter is: "Peter, you are going to have grave and heavy responsibilities laid upon you. You are going to have to take decisions which will affect the welfare of the whole Church.

You will be the guide and the director of the infant Church. And the decisions you give will be so important, that they will affect the souls of men in time and in eternity."

The privilege of the keys meant that Peter would be the steward of the household of God, opening the door for men to enter into the Kingdom.

The duty of binding and loosing meant that Peter would have to take decisions about the Church's life and practice which would have the most far-reaching consequences.

And indeed, when we read the early chapters of Acts, we see that in Jerusalem that is precisely what Peter did. When we paraphrase this passage which has caused so much argument and controversy, we see that it deals, not with ecclesiastical forms but with the things of salvation. Jesus said to Peter: "Peter, your name means a rock, and your destiny is to be a rock. You are the first man to recognize me for what I am, and therefore you are the first stone in the edifice of the fellowship of those who are mine. Against that fellowship the embattled powers of evil will no more prevail than they will be able to hold me captive in death. And in the days to come, you must be the steward who will unlock the doors of the Kingdom that Jew and Gentile may come in; and you must be the wise administrator and guide who will solve the problems and direct the work of the infant and growing fellowship."

Peter had made the great discovery; and Peter was given the great privilege and the great responsibility.

***It is a discovery which everyone must make for himself; and, when he has made it, the same privilege and the same responsibility are laid upon him.

Though Peter plays a very promient role in the NT, he is not infallible

[1]Matt 14:28 (KJS) And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. {boisterous: or, strong} 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth [his] hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

[2]Matt 26:69-75 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before [them] all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another [maid] saw him, and said unto them that were there, This [fellow] was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came unto [him] they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art [one] of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, [saying], I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

[3] Gala 2:11 (KJS) But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We [who are] Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

And, the promise that is made here is made again to all the disciples

Just read this text.. Matt 18:18 (KJS) Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

And, in the gospel of John, forgiving andretainingsins are also promished the other disciples..

John 20:21 (KJS) Then said Jesus to them again, Peace [be] unto you: as [my] Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on [them], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; [and] whose soever [sins] ye retain, they are retained.

Jesus makes no statement about Peter's successors,Claims for primacy of Peter's successors, premished on this verse-made at leassdt since the third century, basically assume a succession about which the verse says absolutely nothing explicitly--and about which the remainder of the NT is absolutely silent.

The popular concept of Peter as the keeper of the gates of heaven has no scriptural basis.

Richard seeking finding victory in Christ and in His Eternal Word..

Dear Richard,

I'd like to commend you for the time and effort you put into your exegesis of Matt. 16:18-19. It is certainly one of the longest discussions of this passage I have yet seen from a Protestant. However, I don't think you got it quite right, and I'd like to try to prove that.


First, you wrote that Catholics use Matt. 16:18 to establish "that to Peter were given the keys which admit or exclude a man from heaven." But that is not what the metaphor of the "keys" means. Neither Peter, nor his successors the popes, have the authority to grant or bar access to heaven, only God has that authority. You also wrote that Catholics use this verse to establish "that to Peter was given the power to absolve or not to absolve a man from his sins." This too is incorrect. The verse has nothing to do with the absolution of sins. The authority of the apostles (all of them, not just Peter) to absolve or not to absolve is established in John 20:23 -- "If you [apostles] forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (As an aside, I find it very amusing to watch Protestants stumble all over themselves trying to explain this verse away through every manner of contorted, "this-is-what-it-really-means" verbal gymnastics. These rather desparate attempts to avoid its literal meaning are truly ironic, coming as they do from those who claim to believe "only what the Bible says.")

Next, you established that the Greek word "Petros" (Peter) is different from the Greek word "petra" (rock). This is true, of course, but it proves nothing. The Greek word for "rock," petra, is feminine in gender, and one would not give a man (Peter) a feminine nickname. The word "Petros" is simply the word "petra" with a masculine ending. But, as you also noted, Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Greek. Thus, he would have addressed Simon as "Kepha," not "Petros." In the Aramaic, the two words would be exactly the same. That's why there is a growing consensus among Protestant scholars that Jesus was refering to Peter himself as the rock. For example, Protestant scholar D.A. Carson wrote,

"Although it is true that petros and petra can mean "stone" and "rock" respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. Moreover the underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; and most probably kepha was used in both clauses ("you are kepha" and "on this kepha"), since the word was used both for a name and for a "rock." The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses. The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name. . . Had Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was a stone in contrast with Jesus the Rock, the more common word would have been lithos ("stone" of almost any size)." (D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Matthew, Mark, Luke), ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 368).

Likewise, Oscar Cullman also admits that the traditional Reformation interpretation of this verse is wrong:

"The Aramaic original of the saying enables us to assert with confidence the formal and material identity between p tra [petra] and P tros [Petros]; P tros = p tra. . . . The idea of the Reformers that He is referring to the faith of Peter is quite inconceivable . . . for there is no reference here to the faith of Peter. Rather, the parallelism of "thou art Rock" and "on this rock I will build" shows that the second rock can only be the same as the first. It is thus evident that Jesus is referring to Peter, to whom he has given the name Rock. . . . To this extent Roman Catholic exegesis is right and all Protestant attempts to evade this interpretation are to be rejected." (Oscar Cullman, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1968), 6:98, 108).

Now, in fairness to you, you did say that the best interpretation was that Peter himself is the rock, just as Catholics claim. However, you appear to want to have it both ways, for although you concede the linguistic argument, you nevertheless maintain that the verse refers not to the person of Peter, but to the Messianic confession of Peter. You wrote,

"Peter was the first man on earth to discover who Jesus was; he was the first man to make the leap of faith and see in him the Son of the living God. In other words, Peter was the first member of the Church, and, in that sense, the whole Church is built on him. . . . And in ages to come, everyone who makes the same discovery as Peter is another stone added into the edifice of the Church of Christ."

Your error here is three-fold. First, you attributed to Simon himself the discovery that Christ is the Son of God. But Simon did not "discover" this fact, it was revealed to him directly by God. Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." (Matt. 16:17).

Second, you mistakenly claim that Jesus calls Simon "Rock" in response to, and because of, his Messianic confession. You make Jesus say, "Peter, you are the first man to grasp who I am; you are therefore the first stone." But this isn't even true. Simon was not the first to understand that Jesus was the Messiah, his brother Andrew was. The Bible says, "The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, 'We have found the Messiah' (that is, the Christ)." (John 1:41).

Nor can you say that Simon was given the name, Rock (Peter), in response to his declaration that Jesus was the Son of the living God, because the incident recorded here, where Simon makes that declaration, was not the first time Jesus had called him "Rock." In fact, Jesus called him "Rock" the very first time He met him, long before Simon had any clue who Jesus was. After Andrew found Simon and told him that Jesus was the Messiah, he took him to meet Jesus. The Bible says, "Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas [Kepha]' (which, when translated, is Peter [Petros])." (John 1:42). Thus, it is obvious that Simon was not given the name Peter because he grasped who Jesus was; rather, the opposite is true: it was revealed to him who Jesus was because Jesus had already chosen him from the very beginning to be the rock upon which He would build His Church.

Third, even though you conceded that the verse refers to the person of Peter, you nevertheless attributed his status as "Rock" to his Messianic confession. But this is clearly contrary to the text itself, and to the rest of the Bible, as I've just shown. The Catholic understanding of this verse, at least insofar as it refers to Peter himself, is also affirmed by many Protestant scholars, who, as you said, are interested in "being as fair as one can be about this passage." For example, the renowned Protestant scholar W.F. Albright wrote,

"This ["Peter"] is not a name, but an appellation and a play on words. There is no evidence of Peter or Kephas as a name before Christian times. . . . Peter as Rock will be the foundation of the future community. Jesus, not quoting the Old Testament, here uses Aramaic, not Hebrew, and so uses the only Aramaic word which would serve his purpose. In view of the background of vs. 19, one must dismiss as confessional interpretation any attempt to see this rock as meaning the faith, or the Messianic confession, of Peter. To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence. The interest in Peter's failures and vacillations does not detract from this pre-eminence; rather, it emphasizes it. Had Peter been a lesser figure his behavior would have been of far less consequence (cp. Gal 2:11 ff.)." (W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, Matthew (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1971), 195).

Likewise, David Hill, a Presbyterian minister at the University of Sheffield wrote,

"It is on Peter himself, the confessor of his Messiahship, that Jesus will build the Church. . . . Attempts to interpret the 'rock' as something other than Peter in person (e.g. his faith, the truth revealed to him) are due to Protestant bias, and introduce to the statement a degree of subtlety which is highly unlikely." (David Hill, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), 261).

The early Christians also understood that although Jesus is the ultimate foundation of the Church, nevertheless, Peter serves as its visible foundation on earth. For example, the great Cyprian of Carthage wrote,

"There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering." (Cyprian of Carthage, Letters 43[40]:5 [A.D. 253]).

A hundred years later, Ephraim the Syrian wrote,

"[Jesus said,] Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter [i.e., Rock], because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples." (Ephraim the Syrian, Homilies 4:1 [A.D. 351]).


You correctly noted that Matt. 16:19 echoes Isaiah 22:23, but you appear to have misunderstood the meaning of the "keys" in that passage. In the house of King David there were many servants. In order to prevent chaos if disputes should arise among them, one of the servants was given authority over the others. He was called the "chief steward" or "chamberlain." In Isaiah 22, the Lord describes the authority of the chief steward:

"This is what the lord, the Lord Almighty, says: 'Go, say to this steward, to Shebna, who is in charge of the palace: . . . I will depose you from your office and you will be ousted from your position. In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.'" (Isaiah 22:15, 19-22).

This is almost the same language that Jesus used when He established Simon as the rock upon which He would build His church. Jesus appointed His servant Peter as "chief steward" over his church, just as Eliakim was the chief steward over David's kingdom. You wrote that the "keys" in Isaiah 22 refers to literal keys with which the steward "in the morning opens the door, and in the evening shuts it." But the keys, even if they were literal keys, were also a metaphor for the chief steward's authority over the other servants. Protestant author F. F. Bruce explains:

"And what about the keys of the kingdom? The keys of a royal or noble establishment were entrusted to the chief steward or major domo; he carried them on his shoulder in earlier times, and there they served as a badge of the authority entrusted to him. . . . So in the new community which Jesus was to build, Peter would be, so to speak, chief steward." (F. F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1983), 143-144).

Thus, the keys here have nothing to do with Peter's preaching (which "opens the door" to the Gentiles, etc.), rather they symbolize Peter's pre-eminent position over the other apostles, just as keys had also symbolized the pre-eminent position of Eliakim over the other servants in David's house. We see Peter's pre-eminance played out in the New Testament. For example, it is not a coincidence that whenever the apostles are listed Peter is always named first, and Judas Iscariot is always named last. Nor is it a coincidence that Peter is mentioned by name more than all the other disciples combined. As I already noted, according to Protestant scholar W.F. Albright, "To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence."


I must congratulate you on correctly presenting the meaning of the phrase "bind and loosing." Protestants almost always get that wrong, but you did not. It is, as you said, a rabbinic phrase meaning "to forbid or permit." This authority was given to Peter, and later to the other apostles. What does this authority mean? According to Ralph Earle, Professor of New Testament at Nazarene Theological Seminary:

"Even more striking [than the keys] is Jesus' statement that whatever Peter bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. What is meant by bind and loose? M'Neile explains: "'Bind' and 'loose' appear to represent the Aramaic . . . technical terms for the verdict of a teacher of the Law who, on the strength of his expert knowledge of the oral tradition, declared some action or thing 'bound' i.e. forbidden, or 'loosed' i.e. permitted." In other words, Peter would give decisions, based on the teachings of Jesus, which would be bound in heaven that is honored by God." (Ralph Earle, "Matthew," in A.F. Harper and others, eds., Beacon Bible Commentary, vol. 6, (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill, 1964), 156).

Likewise, according to the Intervarsity Press Commentary:

"That authority is exercised in binding and loosing which were technical terms for the pronouncement of rabbis on what was and was not permitted (to bind was to forbid, to loose to permit). This verse (Matthew 16:19) therefore probably refers primarily to a legislative authority in the church." (Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, (Downer's Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1993), 90).

So Peter, and the other apostles, were given the authority to legislate for the Church, and God promised that the decisions they made on earth would be so guided by the Holy Spirit that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven. This, by the way, implies the infallibility of those decisions, because God, who is Truth, could not bind Himself to error. You cited three examples to supposedly show the fallibility of Peter, but two of them were before Pentecost, before the Church (and Peter's gift of infallibility) even existed. And all three of them refer to failures of Peter's behavior, not his teaching. No one ever claimed that Peter or the popes would behave infallibly, so if you want to undermine the concept of infallibility, you must show that Peter taught a heresy as binding Christian doctrine, not that he sometimes failed to live up to his own infallible teaching.

You wrote that this authority to bind and loose was given "to all the disciples." If you mean that it was given to the other eleven apostles, you are correct. But if you mean that Jesus gave this authority to every Christian disciple, that is wrong. Obviously, every Christian cannot pronounce legislative decisions in the Church that will be bound in heaven. As Tertullian wrote, "What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when he conferred this personally upon Peter? 'Upon you,' he says, 'I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys.'" (Tertullian, Modesty 21:9-10 [A.D. 220]). The authority of the keys was given only to Peter and his successors, and the authority to bind and loose was given only to the apostles, and to their successors. Which brings us to . . .


The visible leaders of the Church, i.e., Peter and the apostles, held an authoritive office that did not die with them, but was handed on to successors, just as the stewardship of the kingdom of David was also handed on to successors. The Bible itself demonstrates this in the case of Judas, the first of the twelve apostles to die:

"In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said 'For it is written in the book of Psalms, "Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it"; and "His office let another take." So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us, one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.' And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, 'Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.' And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles." (Acts 1:15, 20-26 ).

Note that Judas occupied an "office" that was filled by a successor upon his death. The King James Version correctly translates the word "office" as "Bishoprick," but some modern Protestant translations have tried to hide the meaning by using such phrases as "his place of leadership" (NIV). Also, the casting of lots here is very significant, because it was not just the first-century equivalent of tossing a coin. On the contrary, the casting of lots was the Judaic method by which a priestly office was filled, as the Bible indicates:

"They organized them by lot, all alike, for there were officers of the sanctuary and officers of God among both the sons of Eleazar and the sons of Ithamar." (1 Chron 24:5).

"These also, the head of each father's house and his younger brother alike, cast lots, just as their brethren the sons of Aaron, in the presence of King David, Zadok, Ahimelech, and the heads of fathers' houses of the priests and of the Levites." (1 Chron 24:31).

Peter and the other apostles were Jews, of course, so they were well acquainted with the Judaic method of filling a priestly office. Moreover, Simon Peter, the first among the apostles, had the authority to decide what conditions were necessary for the consecration of one who would "take an office" in the new Christian church. He decided (perhaps having been so instructed by Christ during the 40 days mentioned in Acts 1:3) that when an apostle died, a successor would be chosen to "take his office." We cannot simply dismiss that and say, "Well, that was Peter's opinion, but it's not binding on us," because Jesus specifically told Peter that whatever he bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and we've already seen (from Protestant sources no less) that this referred to the authority to establish binding rules and legislation in the Church. When Peter sets a rule on earth, you can consider it to be set in heaven. Thus, to reject the apostolic succession of visible church leaders is to reject what God himself has affirmed in heaven.

The Bible shows us how the apostles ordained their successors. Normally, an apostle would establish a local church, live with it and instruct it, sometimes for years, then ordain overseers (Greek: "episcopoi", i.e., "bishops") and elders (Greek: "presbyteroi," i.e., "priests"), and move on. For example, Acts 18:9 tells us that Paul lived in Corinth for "a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them." Acts 14:23 says, "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust." We know from Acts 20:31 that Paul spent three years in Ephesus. Some months later, he summoned the Ephesian elders, whom he had ordained, to Miletus and he said to them, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28).

We see the same pattern of visible Church leadership and apostolic authority and succession carried into the immediate post-apostolic period, precisely as we would expect. Clement, the fourth bishop of Rome, who, according to Irenaeus, knew both Peter and Paul (and who is mentioned in Phil. 4:3), wrote,

"Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." (Clement, Letter to the Corinthians 42:4-5, 44:1-3, A.D. 80).

Likewise, John's disciple Ignatius, who was ordained Bishop of Antioch by Simon Peter himself, also wrote about the apostolic authority of the apostles' successors the bishops:

"Indeed, when you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ, who died for us, that through faith in his death you might escape dying. It is necessary, therefore--and such is your practice--that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live in him. . . . In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church." (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Trallians 2:1-3, 3:1-2, A.D. 110).

So your assertion that the Church that began with Peter "was not a Church in the human sense" ( i.e., a visible organization with a visible hierarchy) is rejected by the first-century Bishop of Antioch, a man who knew Peter personally, and who was a disciple of John. I would respectfully suggest that Ignatius, who still had the apostles' teaching ringing in his ears, was in a much better position to know the truth of these things than you are 2000 years later.

By the way, Ignatius called this visible church the "Catholic church." He wrote, "Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2, A.D. 107).

Early Church historian J.N.D. Kelly, a Protestant, acknowledges the visible, organizational nature of this Church:

"As regards [the name] 'Catholic' . . . in the latter half of the second century at latest, we find it conveying the suggestion that the Catholic is the true Church as distinct from heretical congregations (cf., e.g., Muratorian Canon). . . . What these early fathers were envisaging was almost always the empirical, visible society; they had little or no inkling of the distinction which was later to become important between a visible and an invisible Church. (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, (New York: Harper & Row, 1960), 190).

It is undeniable that in the immediate post-apostolic era, as sects and heresies rose up, the apostolic succession alone determined the legitimacy of any supposedly Christian church. So when the Gnostics came along saying that they had some hidden, higher knowledge that was necessary for salvation, Irenaeus (who was a disciple of John's disciple Polycarp) wrote,

"It is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers . . . The true knowledge is the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world, and the manifestation of the body of Christ according to the succession of bishops, by which succession the bishops have handed down the Church which is found everywhere. (Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 3:4:1, 4:33:8, A.D. 189).


We've seen that in Matt. 16:18, Jesus designated Peter himself, not his confession, not his faith, as the rock upon which He would build His Church. This was acknowledged by the early Christians, and is conceded by Protestant scholars. We've also seen that Matt. 16:19 refers to the pre-eminent authority of Peter among the apostles and in the early Christian church, a fact also acknowledged by the early Christians and conceded by Protestant scholars. And finally, we've seen that apostolic succession, by which Peter and the other apostles handed down their apostolic authority to their successors is well-established in the Bible, and in the explicit testimony of the earliest Christians, some of whom knew the apostles personally.

Thus, there is a solid basis, both in Scripture, and in history, for the claims of the Catholic Church regarding Peter and the popes.

Yours in Christ,


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This is a good example with a problem of sola Scriptura: Even your citation of St. Augustine is isolated, because elsewhere he affirms the authority of the Catholic Church and the See of Rome as having Primacy (and this is what I got in only two minutes through my "library", as I don't have time for a full explication at present.)

Two quotes from Augustine:

"There are many other things which rightly keep me in the bosom of the Catholic Church. The consent of the people and nations keeps me, her authority keeps me, inaugurated by miracles, nourished in hope, enlarged by love, and established by age. The succession of priests keep me, from the very seat of the apostle Peter (to whom the Lord after his resurrection gave charge to feed his sheep) down to the present episcopate [of Pope Siricius]" (Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 5 [A.D. 397]).

"[On this matter of the Pelagians] two councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See [the Bishop of Rome], and from there rescripts too have come. The matter is at an end; would that the error too might be at an end!" (Sermons 131:10 [A.D. 411]).

In looking at Matt 16:18 and it's exegesis revealing Peter as the 'rock' mentioned in this verse, it is first important to point out that Peter is not "rock" to the exclusion of Christ, nor is he the 'rock' in addition to Christ. On the contrary, he is the "rock" in subordination to Christ, while being raised above the other Apostles. So, all citations of God being mentioned at the "Rock" elsewhere are of no consequence - and are thus rendered meaningless to the refutation of Peter as the "rock" of Matt 16:18.

It is clear that authority of Peter is being established in this verse, as the keys to the kingdom are given to Peter, along with the authority to bind and loose; as all the Apostles receive the authority to do in 18:18.

Paul mentions in Eph 2:19-20 "[T]he household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;

Elsewhere Peter speaks of the "church of the living God" as being the "household of God".... "If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." [1 Tim 3:15]

So, we can see that the Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets....with Christ as the cornerstone. Peter being right next to Christ, as he is to even "strengthen [his] brethren" [Luke 22:32]. The primacy of Peter and his role among even the Apostles is made clear through the New Testament.

Now, stating that the Scriptures never account for certain teachings and authority of the Papacy...of Petrine Primacy...etc, would thusly accuse Peter and the other Apostles of passing on something which Jesus never intended - thus it would mean that the Apostles themselves were in heresy - specifically since the direct disciples, bishops - even Peter's successor himself - Clement I - comment on Peter and his "office" having primacy.

"The church of God which sojourns at Rome to the church of God which sojourns at Corinth ... But if any disobey the words spoken by him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger." Clement of Rome,Pope,1st Epistle to the Corinthians,1,59:1 (c.A.D. 96),in GILES,1-2

"Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Mast High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who farmed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour; the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love..." Ignatius of Antioch,Epistle to the Romans, Prologue (A.D. 110), in ANF,I:73

These things I have put together in about 10 minutes time, and they make your argumentation about Peter and the authority of the both the Papacy and the Church very shakey indeed.

Thoughout our discussions I have not even begn to employ the Church Fathers - either apostolic or later...were I to throw them into the mix there would be much more evidence for such interpretations, as these such as Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement of Rome heard and learned directly from the Apostles themselves. My reason for not fully employing them yet is simply because I have not yet fully presented my case on sola Scriptura - though Scripture itself testifies against it, as does Protestantism itself.

God bless, Matt

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